- The Angels are planning to sit down with backstop Martin Maldonado at the Winter Meetings, per Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group (via Twitter). That’s not especially portentous news, as Fletcher points out, as teams hold many such meetings this time of year. Still, it’s a notable connection, particularly since the catching market has developed on a relatively rapid timetable. The 33-year-old Maldonado spent on the Halos roster in 2017 and 2018, so the organization is plenty familiar with him.
The Angels have often been connected to right-hander Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 free-agent starter available, but they’re considering the second-best starter on the market as a contingency plan. The club has held a face-to-face meeting with Stephen Strasburg, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports.
Strasburg, like Cole, is a a Southern California native, but that probably won’t matter if the Angels don’t put forth an extremely competitive offer. In Strasburg’s case, that could mean a proposal approaching $200MM. The Angels already acquired one starter earlier this week, as they landed righty Dylan Bundy in a trade with the Orioles, but there’s still plenty of work left to fix their rotation. To many, this offseason could go down as a failure for the long-suffering Angels if they don’t reel in a front-line starter such as Cole or Strasburg.
Of course, whether Strasburg will leave his only team to date – the Nationals – remains in question. He and third baseman Anthony Rendon are two enormously important free agents for the reigning World Series winners, but Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner has suggested the Nats are only capable of retaining one of the two. If that one free agent proves to be Rendon, it could lead to a Strasburg-Angels union. Strasburg’s agent, Scott Boras, hasn’t gotten along well with Angels owner Arte Moreno in the past, though it seems the two have moved past their differences. That may prove to be hugely important for the Angels, as they need a No. 1-caliber starter and the two top rotation options – Cole and Strasburg – are Boras cliients.
The Yankees have already met this offseason with the top free agent available, Cy Young-caliber right-hander Gerrit Cole. It sounds as if their powwow went well, as the Yankees have a Cole signing atop their list of offseason priorities, Jeff Passan of ESPN reports. While the luxury tax has frequently been an issue for the Yankees since Hal Steinbrenner assumed ownership several years ago, it doesn’t look as if it’ll impede a potential Cole signing. The Yankees “have ownership-level approval to offer him a record-setting deal,” Passan writes.
Along with the Yankees, the Angels – who have been regarded as the favorite to sign Cole – as well as the Dodgers may be lining up for a Cole bidding war, suggests Passan. Offers haven’t come in yet, but the Yankees’ involvement could be an enormous boon for Cole. Even if he doesn’t sign with them, the financially powerful franchise has the money to further drive up bidding for Cole, who’s essentially a shoo-in to ink a contract worth far more than the record pact David Price signed with the Red Sox entering 2016 (seven years, $217MM).
The Yankees haven’t handed out a nine-figure contract in free agency since they added righty Masahiro Tanaka on a seven-year, $155MM payday going into 2014. However, the franchise clearly loves Cole, as it selected him in the first round of the 2008 draft (Cole went to UCLA instead, later becoming the No. 1 overall pick of the Pirates) and tried to trade for him a couple years ago. But the Astros outbid the Yankees for Cole before the 2018 season, and Houston eliminated New York from this fall’s ALCS with Cole’s help. The Yankees, however, have clearly seen enough of Cole dominating in other uniforms, and they look ready to strike now that he’s available in free agency.
The Yankees sent a notable contingent to meet with Cole and agent Scott Boras this week, per Passan, who names general manager Brian Cashman, skipper Aaron Boone, pitching coach Matt Blake and franchise icon Andy Pettitte as those who sat down with him. In the event the Yankees lose out on Cole, though, they haven’t ruled out going after longtime National and reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, the No. 2 starter on the market. The Yankees have also met with Strasburg, another Boras client.
- Morosi reports on another potential Detroit target in another tweet, noting that the Tigers and Angels are two of the teams interested in Josh Lindblom. The right-hander is looking to return to the majors on the heels of two outstanding seasons in South Korea’s KBO League, and some very impressive spin rate numbers on his four-seam fastball. Morosi writes that Lindblom has already received multi-year offers from more than one team, which isn’t surprising given how Lindblom would be an inexpensive yet high-ceiling addition to a lot of pitching staffs (such as rebuilding teams like the Tigers or hopeful contenders like the Angels).
- The Angels and Orioles swung a headline-grabbing trade Wednesday, when Los Angeles acquired righty Dylan Bundy from Baltimore. Even after picking up Bundy, the Angels remain “in the market for pitching,” said general manager Billy Eppler (via Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com). As for the non-contending Orioles, in parting with Bundy, they took “a big step toward our stated goals to accumulate and develop as much young talent as possible as the club rebuilds its roster and gets our talent level back to the level needed for consistent playoff contention,” per GM Mike Elias (via Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com).
4:16pm: The Orioles have announced the move. Their 40-man roster is down to 37 players.
3:06pm: The Angels have reached a deal to acquire right-hander Dylan Bundy from the Orioles, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (via Twitter). Minor league right-hander Isaac Mattson is among the players headed back to the Orioles in the trade, which should be the first of several moves made to add to the Angels’ rotation this winter. Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles will acquire a total of four minor league pitchers in the deal (Twitter link).
Bundy, 27, was the fourth overall pick by the Orioles back in 2011 and was touted as one of the game’s premier pitching prospects before a slew of injuries slowed his path to the big leagues. Once heralded as a potential ace, he’s instead settled in as a back-of-the-rotation arm in Baltimore, although despite a loss of velocity on his formerly blazing heater, Bundy still creates some optimism that there could be more in the tank.
First and foremost, it should be noted that he’s largely distanced himself from his early-career injury troubles, making 89 starts across the past three seasons as the lone source of consistency in the Baltimore rotation. He’s averaged better than a strikeout per inning over the past two seasons as well, and in 2019 posted a career-high 12.9 percent swinging-strike rate and 35.7 percent opponents’ chase rate on pitches outside the strike zone.
Bundy averages just 91.2 mph on his fastball at this point, but his ability to miss bats is undeniable. Drilling down a bit deeper, the spin rate on Bundy’s fastball ranked in the 95th percentile of MLB hurlers back in 2017 and has fallen in the 86th percentile in each of the past two seasons. His slider has generated whiffs at a near-25 percent clip over the past three seasons as well.
All of that said, Bundy’s bottom-line results simply haven’t been that inspiring since establishing himself as a rotation regular in Baltimore. He’s totaled 503 innings dating back to 2017 but pitched to a lowly 4.83 ERA and 4.76 FIP in that time. Home runs have been a particular problem for Bundy, who served up a league-high 41 long balls in 2018.
Bundy did work to counteract that in 2019, throwing fewer four-seamers and more changeups. The resulting 41.5 percent ground-ball rate was the highest of his career, and if he can continue to induce grounders on a more regular basis, he should be aided by an improved infield defense in Anaheim, where Andrelton Simmons and David Fletcher both grade as standouts with the glove. Simply moving away from Camden Yards and the many hitter-friendly parks the AL East has to offer could also shave a few home runs off his total moving forward as well.
From a contractual standpoint, there’s plenty to like about Bundy. He’ll be eligible for arbitration both this winter and next before reaching the open market upon completion of the 2021 season, and he’s projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn an affordable $5.7MM salary for the upcoming 2020 season.
The Angels, perhaps more than any team in baseball, have been decimated by injuries in recent years, so Bundy’s average of 29.7 starts over the past three seasons alone surely holds appeal to the Halos. He’ll slot into a rotation mix that features a returning Shohei Ohtani (who should be recovered from 2018 Tommy John surgery), Andrew Heaney and youngsters like Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria and Jose Suarez.
Of course, the Angels are also known to be in the hunt for much bigger fish in free agency this winter, with Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg both rumored to be of interest to GM Billy Eppler and his staff. Other names on the market include Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel, and it’d be a rather notable surprise if the Angels didn’t add at least one high-end arm to join Bundy in the updated rotation — be it via free agency or via trade. Given Bundy’s relatively low salary, there’s ample financial room for the Angels to do just that; they’re currently projected to come in around $150MM in 2020 payroll, and their luxury tax considerations are only a bit north of that mark.
Turning to the Orioles’ return, the 24-year-old Mattson, 24 will slot into the upper levels of the Baltimore farm system. He’s not a high-end prospect and wasn’t considered to be among the 30 best minor leaguers in the Angels’ system by either MLB.com or FanGraphs, but he enjoyed a strong 2019 season. A 19th-round pick in 2017, Matttson soared through the Angels’ system with 73 1/3 innings of 2.33 ERA ball and reached Triple-A late in the year. He posted a gaudy 13.5 K/9 mark against 3.3 BB/9 out of the bullpen and went on to post even better numbers in the Arizona Fall League; in 10 2/3 innings of relief in the AFL, Mattson allowed two earned runs (1.69 ERA) on nine hits and three walks with 12 strikeouts. He’s generated average or better ground-ball numbers throughout his minor league tenure and should be a near-term option for the ’pen in Baltimore.
Bradish turned 23 in September and spent the season with the Angels’ Class-A Advanced affiliate after being selected in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. He logged a 4.28 ERA, 10.7 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 while running up a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate in 101 innings. MLB.com ranked him 21st among Angels prospects, praising his four-pitch mix and deceptive delivery but noting that said delivery also leads to control issues.
Both Peek (sixth round) and Brnovich (eighth round) were college arms drafted by the Angels this summer. However, neither pitched following the draft, as the Angels shut both down per an organizational policy for college arms (as noted by MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, on Twitter). Baseball America ranked Brnovich 107th in the draft class and Peek 193rd, while MLB.com ranked both just inside the top 200 (Peek 178th, Brnovich 185th).
The subtraction of Bundy leaves what already looked to be perhaps the worst rotation in baseball in even more grisly shape, although the Baltimore organization has made it abundantly clear that winning games in 2020 isn’t a priority. To the contrary — the Orioles are quite likely gunning for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft as part of what looks to be an Astros-esque rebuild under second-year GM Mike Elias (who was hired out of the Houston organization). The next several seasons won’t be pretty for Orioles fans, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll come out on top of this rebuild like the Astros and Cubs did, but their aim to do so is readily evident.
1:10pm: The Angels are still weighing whether to renovate the existing stadium or build a new stadium on the current site, Alicia Robinson of the Orange County Register reports. To that end, they’ve hired the same architectural firm that recently designed Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium — home of the NFL’s Vikings — and the Rangers’ new ballpark in Texas to aid in their decision-making process.
Robinson’s colleague, Jeff Fletcher, tweets that despite remaining in Anaheim, there are no plans to revert to the “Anaheim Angels” moniker; the team will continue to be referred to as the Los Angeles Angels.
11:52am: The Halos will stay at home for at least thirty more years after reaching a deal with the city of Anaheim, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter). As part of the arrangement, which runs through the 2050 campaign, the club has purchased Angel Stadium and its surrounding lots for a sum of $325MM.
This news seems to bring an end to a long-simmering stadium dispute. While other organizations are dealing with more complicated ballpark matters, Angels owner Arte Moreno has at times hinted at the possibility of a move. That never seemed a high-likelihood outcome; now, it’s off the table.
Some important details remain unknown at present. The club will obviously continue to play in the existing ballpark for the time being, but it’s not known whether the facility — at over fifty years of age, one of the oldest in baseball — will ultimately be slated for replacement. At minimum, the Halos are sure to set to work at developing the real estate surrounding the existing stadium.
The Dodgers and Angels “have gotten face time” with free agent ace Gerrit Cole, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. Those teams have long rated among the top theoretical possibilities for the California native.
Cole has recently been wooed in person by the Yankees, who’d like to roll out the red carpet for him in the Bronx. Sherman provides a detailed explanation of the organization’s approach — including his belief that Cole’s general predilection for the West Coast won’t prevent him from donning pinstripes.
It’s completely unsurprising to hear of the Halos’ involvement. The organization is desperate to get back to winning, has a glaring need for pitching and money to spend, and is now set to embark upon a new potential revenue source after agreeing to a deal with the city of Anaheim.
As for the Dodgers, they were already known to have held sit-downs with two other high-end free agents. Now, they’re at least a legitimate player on Cole, though the true interest level isn’t known. This level of investment is well within the organization’s financial capabilities but hasn’t really been part of its approach of late. The team has been willing to spend gobs of money on short-term arrangements. Whether it’ll approach Cole with such a scenario, providing an alternative to a lengthier term and greater overall guarantee, remains to be seen.
There’s momentum in the market for righty Zack Wheeler, who is reportedly already sitting on a nine-figure offer. The Phillies are now perhaps the strongest pursuer of the 29-year-old, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports.
With the Philadelphia organization firmly entering the picture, Wheeler is sitting in an enviable position. There are a host of other teams still in the picture. Olney cites the Reds, White Sox, and Rangers as remaining involved. We’ve previously heard of intense interest from the Twins, who were reportedly still in the picture as of yesterday.
In another report this morning, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter) suggests that the Reds and White Sox are the other teams most clearly in the mix with the Phillies. But it’s still a fluid bidding situation, so far as is known publicly. Indeed, Rosenthal adds that the Angels “have shown real interest,” though their status at the moment isn’t clear.
This could be building into a perfect storm for Wheeler, whose big arm and relative youth hold obvious appeal. It seems teams have come to terms with his history of arm issues and are banking on a two-year track record of durability. In our ranking of the top 50 free agents, we predicted widespread interest to drive Wheeler to a five-year, $100MM deal with the Phillies. It now seems he will top that guarantee; Olney even floats the possibility that a team will end up offering a sixth year to land the in-demand hurler.
The Angels will not tender a contract to backstop Kevan Smith, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz projected him to earn $1.3MM through the arbitration process.
Smith is said to be the only remaining arb-eligible Halos player who won’t receive a contract tender tonight. That suggests the club will retain backstop Max Stassi, who’ll presumably serve as the backup to an as-yet-unknown primary catcher once he has recovered from hip surgery.
Last year, after coming over from the White Sox in a waiver claim, Smith turned in a .251/.318/.393 batting line in 211 plate appearances. He has a history of decent offensive production, but hasn’t graded well as a framer and evidently didn’t impress enough overall with the glove to keep his spot in Anaheim.